The line being very strongly pushed by the Nationals is that Barnaby Joyce “delivers for regional and rural Australia like nobody else”.
But is it true?
After the 2013 election, Tony Windsor spoke to Barnaby Joyce about continuing the campaign for funding for Armidale Hospital. Barnaby’s response was informative in showing who he cares about.
‘You know, Tony, until you had decided not to run I had the money for the Armidale Hospital, as well as funding for the Legume to Woodenbong Road.’
‘When you were still the member and running,’ he said, ‘Abbott’s office said we could have a range of things, including $50 million for the hospital. But when you didn’t run they withdrew the money for the hospital and the road.’
Why waste money on the people when you have it in the bag, eh Barnaby. Let the states foot the bill and then you just turn up to cut the ribbon.
Then there is the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Barnaby isn’t fussed about any of that silly environmental stuff.
As he told the boys at the pub about the deal he struck with Turnbull, “We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask.”
So Barnaby gets the water portfolio and when Four Corners expose how the whole system is being rorted, the Minister couldn’t care less. Rort some more he tells the boys.
Or we could talk about the NBN.
Armidale is benefiting from its fibre to the premise NBN rollout secured by Tony Windsor, while the rest of the electorate has been lumbered with the fibre to the node crap that Barnaby’s mob think will be just fine.
Then there’s jobs.
In March last year, it was reported that “The New England North West has earned the unenviable title as the region with the highest percentage of unemployed people NSW.”
“Across the New England North West almost 10,000 people are on Centrelink welfare payments – excluding students and apprentices – while the youth unemployment rate sits at 14.8 per cent.”
Joyce’s attempt to move the pesticides regulatory authority to his electorate has been an unmitigated disaster that, far from providing jobs, will probably have to be staffed by imported workers.
On renewable energy, Barnaby’s stance inside and outside his electorate are two entirely different things.
In July last year, Barnaby broke out his hard hat and shovel to pose for photos signalling the start of construction at the 20MW White Rock solar farm near Glen Innes, just as the first turbines from the neighbouring 175MW White Rock wind farm began producing into the grid.
“It is positive news for the New England Electorate that the White Rock Solar Farm project construction is now commencing,” Joyce said in a statement, noting the $5.4 million provided by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (which the Coalition had tried to abolish).
“The Federal Coalition government supports renewables and has a legislated and efficient renewable energy target so supporting projects like the White Rocks Solar Farm shows that the Federal government is serious about supporting renewable energy production to help secure the national grid.”
“With other projects like the Sapphire Wind Farm going ahead, it also shows that the New England is leading the way in renewable energy production and I will continue to advocate for the region as a growing power supplier for Australia,” Joyce said in his statement.
Come September, in a speech at the Minerals Week Seminar, Joyce issued a rousing call to arms to Australia’s mining and resources industry, warning that if they lose the fight for new coal-fired power generation, they are opening the door for the rest of the industry to fall victim to the “fatuous economics” of renewable energy and green groups.
(“In the) Galilee Basin, we are in the fight of our lives trying to open up a mechanism that will create wealth for this nation. Total insanity!” he said.
When Greg Hunt approved the $1.2bn Shenhua coal mine on farmland in Barnaby’s electorate, Joyce made some token noise, as one would expect from someone who purports to represent farmers, but was ineffectual in stopping the approval from going ahead.
When Barnaby talks about his new interest, infrastructure, it sounds like a mix between Lucky Starr’s “I’ve been everywhere” and Romper Room’s magic mirror as his constituents wait to hear their hamlet mentioned.
In April 2016, the Grattan Institute produced a report finding that infrastructure spending “has been marred by large amounts being funnelled into questionable transport projects in marginal electorates.”
This was confirmed by the former Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester (elbowed out of the way because Barnaby wanted his job), who said the history of short-term election sweeteners with no long-term planning was further eroding the electorate’s faith in the system.
Despite being on a safe seat of more than 30 per cent, Mr Joyce has the third highest rate of funding in the country, taking in $28 million since 2014.
In the lead up to the New England bylection in December, his electorate received a $2 million grant for a landing system at Tamworth Airport, following a $500,000 grant for an aged care facility in July and an $8.5 million boost for a new equestrian, athletics, cycling centre and indoor sporting centre in August.
It has also been revealed by the chief executive of the Australian Rail Track Corporation, John Fullerton, that Barnaby’s boondoggle, the inland freight rail, won’t generate enough revenue to cover its capital cost.
If Barnaby didn’t understand the urgent need to address climate change when he was Minister for Agriculture and Water, he might get a better idea when he gets the bill for the costs of replacing infrastructure destroyed by extreme weather events.
His supporters, the 8 of them, say Barnaby is a great retail politician.
Well he’s sure good on the con. Consequences? Not so much.